“Thanks,” I said tartly.
His eyes narrowed. “Let’s just be upfront for a minute, Elle. We can do that, right? Set aside all the bullshit and be honest?”
“When am I not honest with you?” I looked to E for help, but he seemed as confused as I was by Aaron’s sudden coldness.
“I told you I was developing feelings for her and you wanted to sabotage it.” He crossed his arms over his chest, his jaw flexing. “Well, congratulations. She’s looking at me as if I’m a fucking—”
“Whoa.” I held up my hand. “What are you talking about? You never told me you were developing feelings for her.”
He looked me square in the eye and sighed in exasperation. “Elle. Don’t play this shit.”
“I’m not playing any shit.” I pushed to my feet. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Maybe you told E, but you didn’t tell me.”
“I did.” He glanced at his watch. “Two, maybe three hours ago. When you were on your way to meet her for lunch. Right before you fucked us both to hell.”
I searched through the conversation. “You told me that you’d never done anything with her. No kisses, no sex. Just maybe flirting. You want me to jump from ‘maybe flirting’ to knowing that you’re developing feelings for her?”
“I told you that something was there. A connection.”
“No.” I shook my head. “We moved from that to talking about Becca. And see!” I straightened, strengthened in my resolve. “How was I supposed to understand that you liked Chelsea when you were going on and on, defending and blabbing about Becca?”
“I barely even mentioned Becca.” He peered at me. “Wait. You thought we were talking about Becca that entire time? When you called Chelsea a slut and told me that she wasn’t interested in me?”
“I didn’t call Chelsea a slut,” I said indigently. “I wouldn’t call her that.” Though maybe, at some point, I had—but in loving terms.
He groaned as he linked his fingers and set them on top of his head. “This is so fucked up.”
I was still trying to backtrack through the conversation and figure out whatever it was that he had just put together.
“You thought I was talking about Becca, but I was talking about Chelsea,” he explained. “I told you that I was developing feelings for her and you told me to give it up—that she wasn’t interested in me.”
“Oh.” I sat on the couch, trying to remember everything I had said. Not good stuff. I’d been on my high horse about Becca and preaching on all of the reasons they shouldn’t be together. Bitch. Had I called her a bitch? Probably. Probably a lying slutty bitch. “You didn’t tell her anything I said, did you?”
“No. Did you tell her anything I said? Or what you thought I said about Becca?”
“No.” I’d been trying to spare Chelsea’s feelings, to dilute her anger over the threesome. Thank God I hadn’t attempted to soften that blow by telling her my false impression of Aaron being hung up on Becca. That was one bright spot in this torrential downpour.
“So…” Easton spoke up from the other end of the couch. “You like Chelsea?”
“Yeah,” Aaron answered. “Not that my brilliant plan to seduce her has been working, or has any legs left. She fucking hates me right now.” He sat in the recliner and picked his baseball cap off the floor, working the brim into a curve.
The truth about Chelsea’s feelings sat like an egg under me, shuddering with the need to crack. Should I tell him? Fan the romance flame? Or should I keep her secret? I’d already screwed up this situation in ten different ways. I couldn’t tip the scales further. I had to be very, very careful about what I did, or didn’t do, next.
I eyed Aaron, who pulled the baseball cap low over his eyes, and warred over which path to take.
“You really don’t have to be here.” I straightened a row of water bottles on a glass tray and smiled at the house manager, who glared back in response. She still hadn’t warmed to me, but maybe snarls were just her love language. She’d spat the same attitude to Brad and Julia, who had responded with warm affection.
“Are you kidding me?” Tim sipped on an iced latte and peered around the room. “There’s more eye candy in this room than in Azucar on a Saturday night.”
“Oh, so you’re here to pick up a day. Good to know.” I glanced at my watch, anxious for the first showing to arrive. I needed this to go smoothly, and not just for the boost in my reputation and business. With Chelsea ignoring my calls, Aaron sulking at me and Easton refusing to let me claw Nicole’s eyes out—I needed something to go right.
“Don’t be like that,” Tim chided, and I couldn’t even remember what we were talking about. “I’m here to help keep an eye on things. You know, in addition to the gazillion cameras and delicious security detail.”